From Fred Itua, Abuja
The Federal Government, through the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), yesterday, opposed the deployment of 5G technology in Nigeria. It said it poses inherent security risks to the country.
Conversely, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, dismissed fears of harmful effects of the technology in Nigeria and other countries.
The minister said the Federal Government was satisfied with results of trials conducted so far, adding that the 5G technology is safe and devoid of any negative impact on human health.
He said the country is presently waiting for President Muhamadu Buhari to approve a national policy on the technology before full deployment.
Director Communications in the Office of the National Security Adviser, Dr Bala Fakandu and Pantami made these assertions in their presentations during a one day investigative public hearing on the: “Present status of 5th generation (5G) network in Nigeria and its technological impact on Nigeria citizens” organised by the Senate Joint Committee on Communications, Science & Technology, ICT & Cyber Crimes, and Primary Health Care & Communicable Diseases, in Abuja.
Fakandu said that the NSA is worried that the 5G technology infrastructure will be highly susceptible to “eavesdropping, tracking, cyber attacks, military and industrial espionage and other malicious activities by foreign actors.
“I will agree with the position of the Minister that we were contacted at the Office of the National Security Adviser before the deployment of the initial trial of the 5G Network.
“I can affirm that the trial has taken place and from our assessment, that there has not been approval for licence to deploy such facility, so that at least we can allay the fears of citizens. I am going to talk about the national security concerns. We are aware that the deployment of 5G will come with different types of equipment and so we understand that the stakeholders in the telecommunications industry will make effort to ensure that they upgrade their systems in order to meet up with the new technology.
“But we are concerned about the deliberate vulnerabilities and backdoors within the 5G network equipment. That is one of the key concerns we have and this will make the infrastructure highly susceptible to eavesdropping, tracking, cyber attacks, military and industrial espionage and other malicious activities by foreign actors.
“We understand these are things that will be put in place particularly in the policy that the Honourable Minister has talked about but I need to emphasise it so that the stakeholders in the telecommunications industry will understand where we are coming from because the national security concerns is the concern of the Office of the National Security Adviser and of the President as well.
“We urge the Honourble Minister to carry the Office of the NSA along in the development of the policy so that we could have a robust framework to take care of these areas.
“There is no link between 5G and COVID-19. And there is no relationship between 5G and any desease. The only issue being raised usually is about radiation.
“But people don’t realise that the radiation of 4G is more harmful than that of 5G. The radiation of microwave oven at home is more harmful than that of the 5G. The radiation of even the smart phone itself is even more harmful than that of the 5G.
“On the 25th September 2019, we conducted the first trial of 5G in Nigeria. In other to demonstrate trust and prove leadership by example, I personally pledged to make a trial so if there is any security implication or medical implication, then Isa would be number one victim.
“And if there is any relationship with COVID-19, I will be the first victim. To date I have not contracted the virus. And I did a test up to 10 times. So I did the trial personally.
“Mr President is very much aware of all these stages from the beginning to where we stopped.
“Part of what we have achieved through the engagement, conducting research, engaging ITU and WHO at the international level, we are in the process of compiling our final position.
“Most of the compiled position will be part of my draft national policy which will be presented to the Federal Executive Council for approval.
“The position is that we are almost at the final stage. So now, Nigeria is ready for 5G as long as we address the major challenges.”